Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Post by Digger »

A non buddhist friend with children once told me they love their kids but if they could do it again (i.e. re-live their life), now knowing what they know, they would not again make the choice to have children.

I'd like to hear your views about children, for example:

Why would a layperson who has made some progress down the path still chose to have children?

How does having children affect your progress down the path?

What do you think about the reasons others (buddhist or not) have children? For example, some have children so they will have someone who will take care of them when they are old, some want to relive their own childhoods through their children, some just have them with no thought behind it, etc. Of course there are the "accidents" when people just intended to have sex.

Do you link the suffering in a childs life to the result of desires in the parents life?

Just wanted to start a conversation on the general topic of children.
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Re: Children

Post by makarasilapin »

hey digger,

good topic. my brother just had his first kid. it's only been two months and he's having a really difficult time with it. he never wanted to have kids but his wife years ago when they started dating said that she'd only stay with him if he'd agree to have one. she really helped him through his depression and he really loves her (he always says she's his best friend) so i'm sure having her as a companion is worth it to him. i'm not sure how it works the other way around, ie. if he refused to have a baby would she have just left to find someone who'd want children? does that make her love for him partially dependent on the condition that he agrees to be a father? or would she still love him but just out of her desire to have children would have to move on and find a different companion?

now that i'm nearing 30 it seems that the single women i know are really on the hunt for husbands (not friends!) - either to have a companion, to have a child with someone who can support a child/them or both (the latter being the most probable, i'm sure). i'm not so sure if it's really so much of a biological thing or as much as people make it out to be because women are having children 10+ years later than when my parents did (50 yrs old+). i think a lot of it just psychological (influence of the media, religion, whatever...) and the goals people want to achieve.

i've been talking to a buddy of mine who's also 29 and single and he's really on the hunt for a suitable wife. he really wants to settle down and have a family. i've asked him why more than a few times and he's said that the motivation for it is is that he wants the responsibility of raising a child (teaching them things, etc.), and having another part of him in the world while at the same time doing that with someone he really loves. to the ordinary person this probably sounds pretty reasonable, but to me it sounds pretty ridiculous.

my cousin just had two baby girls (twins). she's not married yet but she's definitely settled down with a man that she will surely marry soon. i've asked her the same questions and she's answered similarly, ie. the "joy" of raising children with someone you love...

i absolutely love children but i would never have any of my own. i've also been single for 9 years (wow! i've just realized that!) now. there is so much extra kamma that goes with having a child and/or a partner, and who wants all that extra responsibility when being responsible for myself is enough? i think when you're really practicing the dhamma you realize that yourself is enough. i couldn't imagine myself with all that extra responsibility - it would just drive me (crazy!) further and further away from my goals.

all-in-all, i think a lot of relationships are heavily dependent on sexual activity (or the possibility of it, ie. picking a partner in the first place) unless there is a lot of wisdom (basically virtue) in both parties to replace that drive and that people have children mainly due to a lack of wisdom/virtue.

i hope that doesn't offend anyone! :smile:
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Re: Children

Post by Sam Vara »

Why would a layperson who has made some progress down the path still chose to have children?
I don't know if I have made sufficient progress down the path to count, but there were a number of factors involved. I like children, I liked the idea of having them, there was a sense that they could fill a gap in my life, my wife wanted to have them, and so on. It wasn't really a one-off rational decision like buying a new car; too bound up with emotions, biology, and lots of other impulses.
How does having children affect your progress down the path?
Well, it affects the way I practice (less opportunity for perfectly silent meditation sessions; more opportunity to reflect on human beauty and goodness; the opportunity to teach others who are uniquely close to me, etc. Very importantly, it has developed my sense of responsibility like nothing else.) but I can't say if the progress has been faster or slower. It is just different.
Do you link the suffering in a childs life to the result of desires in the parents life?
To be honest, I've not really thought about this, but will from now on! My initial reaction was that the child's suffering is caused by a whole range of things. I never desired them to have chicken pox, or to fall over in the yard, or lose a toy. But obviously my sexual desire was an indispensible condition for their existence; and I can certainly see that there are times when my desires cause them problems. But again, this is another opportunity for me to learn. The monks at the local monastery rarely get the opportunity, for example, to engage in Right Speech with someone who always asks "Why?", or to express love through reading bedtime stories.

As a monk said to me after meeting my family: "You are lucky enough to have two Triple Gems - the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, and also your three children."
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Re: Children

Post by drifting cloud »

I have no desire to have children, and this would be true even if I wasn't a Buddhist. Given the exponential growth of the human population, the effects of that population growth on the biosphere (especially the effects of first world inhabitants), and the rather bleak future we are entering (one characterized by resource depletion, runaway climate change, and the ensuing political and social turmoil) it seems to me to be frankly irresponsible to bring another life into the world right now. If you want children that badly, why not adopt? There are countless numbers of children already born who are in need of a loving family. Why place a greater burden on the earth when you could meet the needs of somebody already here?

I think the idea of having children as a biological imperative is highly overstated in our modern society, the prevailing ideology of which seeks to reduce all human behavior to the interplay of genes. I certainly have no desire to procreate, and I have never understood people who do or who seek to derive meaning through having children.
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Re: Children

Post by Dan74 »

We have three of the little creatures! I had no string desire to have kids, if anything I kind of dreaded the thought, but here we are 10 years later...

From the practice point of view, I think children are some of the greatest teachers of Brahmaviharas. Patience, giving, gentleness, kindness and compassion are essential otherwise life is unpleasant indeed! Renunciation is another one. So things like going out, sleep, enjoying a nice meal with a glass of wine, sex, etc have to be mostly given up!

How you deal with your children is a great indication of where you are in your practice, I've found and I've had a few rough wake-up calls in that regard, which are thankfully in the past (I hope!) They are a great mirror...

On the other hand it is a wonderful blessing to care for them and to be able to share the Dhamma with the children, see them develop and take some good things on board (in their way of course). And one day perhaps contribute to making this world a better place just like they already enrich our lives so much by their energy, their honesty, their spontaneous surprising nature as well as all those other bits that we'd rather not have!
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Re: Children

Post by manas »

I would advise any member who has children to think very carefully about how their children might feel, if they were to someday stumble upon a post where the said member had expressed regret for having had them in the first place. Even in the sense of "I love my children, but in retrospect..." - that would still be deeply hurtful, imho.

If you have no children and want to ordain - go for it, I say. Truly. But - if you have already had them, my advice is don't look back. Learn to appreciate the good in your situation, as it has come to be.

With metta - for all members and their dear ones.

Last edited by manas on Tue Mar 26, 2013 7:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Children

Post by Digity »

I don't have a strong desire to have children. I've told others this and some think that my mind will change if I find the right person. Maybe, but overall I don't want to live the lifestyle of someone with kids. Kids take over your entire life. It's not their fault, it's just the nature of having children.
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Re: Children

Post by knighter »

Hello there

what a great topic.
I was on my way to the foothills of the himalayas to find a cave to practise vipassana, then travel around india to sit at every vipassana centre basically live the life of a monk.
But here i sit an englishman, 8 years later in northern new south wales australia, with my childhood sweetheart.
who i happened to bump into the year before i was due to leave.
We have one boy 11 months old called Rumi and one on the way.
I personally don't think you chose to have children or not, i think its a karmic thing
I only say that because i said to myself i'll never have children, but look at me know, i thought i truly ment it!
Can i say i think my daily practice is as strong as ever because of the children they constantly live in the moment and there
great reminders of tolerance, patients, balance, ect ect....
I find when I'm sitting somewhere meditating and everything is going great, im not really gaining much momentum on my path, but when ive not slept all
night and at my most tired ebb and Rumi is being as demanding as an 11 month old is i find i learn more about myself there than on any course I've sat.
And to try and find the balance in the over whelming love you feel for them, lets just say I'm trying.
I still have a dream of india and the dream is in this life, just if my karma allows it, further down the track.
with loving kindness
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Re: Children

Post by Slava »

Raising kids helped me understand what unconditional love is.

Caring for them provided me with a great opportunity to generate good karma.

Focusing on their needs made me focus less on myself, making me less selfish.
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Re: Children

Post by iforgotmyname »

I like kids - they make me smile (the cute little ones). But the thought of them screwing up as they grow up or rather, me screwing up, makes me wonder whether or not its a good idea - safe path is not to have kids, but it might just happen as some posters have stated. So in short, as usual, I have no idea whether or not it's a good thing.

I have a few times blamed my parents for certain things - and wished if they had not procreated, I wouldn't exist (long time ago, I know that's very bad :() But if rebirth and karma is literal - then I guess it would not have mattered who the parents were, I would have been born into a similar situation. If it's not literal, then I guess I could say if they didn't procreate, I wouldn't be suffering - and if nothing was before or could come after, I wouldn't exist if not for their act of procreation! (regardless of the ethical connotations of making such a claim, it would remain a rational fact).
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Re: Children

Post by convivium »

kid's might be the only dharma teacher i'll ever fully take seriously..
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it.
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Re: Children

Post by nem »

I have children, and I feel a little bad for them, because I see how much suffering they have in their life, even though I provide a "good life" for them by any standard. They have everything and do everything, but the suffering is there no matter what. I mean suffering in the english sense, not in other Pali senses of dukkka where it can mean simple unsatisfactory conditions due to impermanence. They have the suffering of uncertainty in the future, physical pains, being bothered and ridiculed by other kids, etc. Probably someday they will go through tribulations like addictions, or divorce, or being fired in their jobs, dying within my lifetime where I see them die before me, or all of these things that tend to crop up in life. I will just be thinking, yeah, I brought this suffering here through my actions.

The human condition is just this way: you make babies, you are making individuals that are going to suffer alot no matter how much you try to help them. Make babies, and you are bringing someone else to into this cycle of dukkha. Our cravings that I mention here below, cause this thing to continue without end....people want sex, women crave to be mothers and will generally stop at nothing to be mothers (even through artificial conception nowadays) . Men and women make babies for these reasons, and the cycle never stops...

I realized that through my lust for sensual pleasures, I made babies and brought them into this condition. I wanted to please my then wife who wanted babies, to save myself from the suffering of having to hear her nagging me about her need for babies. The sex was nice too. But in the end, to save myself from mental and physical things, through my craving for the nagging to stop and for the sex too, I made babies. If I could go back and do it again, I would not do it, out of compassion for myself and my kids, to end the cycle, end this path for kamma to result. That said, they are here now, and I love them as any other persons. But, they are here as a result of me not understanding the dhamma at the time when they were conceived. Maybe next time around, I'll do it right. ;)
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Re: Children

Post by ground »

Digger wrote:Why would a layperson who has made some progress down the path still chose to have children?
Putting aside "path", I guess that it just happens to most of them or they get persuaded by their partners. Don't think that it is a conscious decision in many cases.
Digger wrote: What do you think about the reasons others (buddhist or not) have children?
"Reasons" just obscure desires and the body's control over activities and behaviours.

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